My roommate, Erin, is part of a coven of women that uses small vials of herbal potions to cure their every complaint. They call them "essential oils."
Recently I complained to Erin about run-of-the-mill lady problems. "Rub some lavender on your big toes!" she told me. Lavender is also her go-to cure for allergies. She swears by grapefruit oil, but I forget why. Her favorite oils are supposed to help with ADD, allergies, skin problems, and immune systems in general. Her sister said that frankincense got rid of her husband's skin tags.
Earlier this year, I had plantar's warts on my feet. My mom sent me a vial of essential oil of oregano, which according to online testimonials, blugeons your wart demons with tiny, botanical wands. The oil didn't make the wart go away, but it DID make my feet smell like pizza. Money well spent.
Erin purchases her essential oils from Young Living, a company with a reputation for high quality, food-grade essential oils, made from plants harvested using their patented "seed to seal" quality assurance process.
Recently I was treated to a peep into a Facebook group devoted to spreading awareness of just how much Young Living essential oils can improve your life. Based on this Facebook group (and a few others), there is a strong overlap between conservative, Christian moms and people who are convinced of the profound health benefits of essential oils.
Young Living "oilies," as they have chosen to call themselves, gather on Facebook to share "information" about which oils can cure what.
And some of the uses might surprise you.
This oil enthusiast's profile picture prominently features the disappointing man in question. "Does anyone know how I can get the clown to my right to pop a B? I'm tired of him always seeming so worn-down and emasculated. And his weak, weak penis isn't helping. Thanks, ladies! That's him to the right, by the way."
One of the most active members in this Facebook group had several suggestions.
Shutran ("Bring out the gladiator in your husband") is a condensed mashup of all the manly ingredients. Fuckin spruce branches, leaves, and a dash of wood oil. That sounds like a joke, but it isn't. According to the Young Living website, "Shutran is an empowering essential oil blend that is designed to boost feelings of masculinity and confidence."
In spite of Shutran's rock-hard reputation, it isn't even close to being Young Living's most essential essential oil.
One of the most popular is Four Thieves, an essential oil renowned for its reputation as an immune system booster. It's concocted using a 16th-century recipe made up by four enterprising corpse robbers. In medieval France, back when everybody was really into the bubonic plague, these four thieves lathered themselves up with the oil before they went to go pickpocket the dead. They were so slippery the germs couldn't stick, or something.
Eventually, they were caught by the French authorities. In exchange for escaping the gallows, the thieves had to give up the recipe.
"Ok, fine," they said. "It's clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus. Can we go now? God."
Then they hanged them anyway. (Ha! Good one!)
What else can essential oils do? According to Young Living distributors, quite a bit!
According to the FDA, they should should stop talking so much! Last year Young Living received a warning letter from the FDA, stating the following:
Your consultants promote many of your Young Living Essential Oil Products for conditions such as, but not limited to, viral infections (including ebola), Parkinson’s disease, autism, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, insomnia, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, and multiple sclerosis, that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners.
I looked up which oils correspond with which psychological conditions/deadly diseases.
- Cancer - Use cinnamon (duh). If it's really bad, throw in some jasmine. (Still have cancer? Sniff the oil HARDER, numb nuts!)
- PTSD - Many sites recommend lavender. I don't know the official explanation, but let's assume that knowing that there are nice purple flowers in the world balances out the ravages of war.
- Dementia? Multiple sclerosis? Parkinson's disease? Frankincense, frankincense, and pretty much just more frankincense.
How many times can I say it? THERE IS AN OIL FOR EVERYTHING.
There was one disease in particular that made the FDA's neck swivel and eyes bulge. This letter was sent in September of 2014, back when Ebola was still trending on Twitter.
In the letter, the FDA points out a few websites of Young Living distributors that suggest that the anti-viral properties of essential oils could keep away Ebola. (It was also the anti-viral properties of essential oil of oregano that was supposed to cure my wart.)
On the website, www.theoildropper.com, under the heading, “Young Living Versus Ebola Virus”:
o “Since I have become an avid Young Living essential oil user I have learned all about the anti-microbial properties of so many oils, including ANTI-VIRAL constituents in many of our essential oils.”o “Top on my list is Thieves. Thieves is highly anti-microbial . . . it could help against Ebola.”o “Ebola Virus can not live in the presence of cinnamon bark (this is in Thieves) nor Oregano.” [sic]
I guess if I was a Young Living enthusiast I might say to myself, FDA = government = lies, whereas oil = nature = I'm a sorceress = this is awesome.
And besides, getting essential oils is so much easier than getting insurance, or chemotherapy.
Once you start oiling, it can be hard to stop.
You have an arsenal of options for dispensing your oils. You can put it in an oil mister that diffuses the oil into the air at regular intervals. You can mix essential oils with carrier oils and rub it on your skin. And you can put it into a necklace, so you never have to be far from your fix.
Apply oils all day, every day, to manage the minutiae of your day-to-day existence. You'll start leaving a misty trail of oil essences in your wake, like a beautiful, shiny slug.
There is always a reason for oil.
Now's a good time to mention the Young Living distribution plan.
Young Living is set up like your standard pyramid scheme. As a member, you receive 24% off your purchases, and if you recruit more people to buy essential oils, you get some kind of reward or commission.
"But it's not a pyramid scheme!" the many-headed oil beast cries. "It's multi-level sales!"
What's the difference?
"Multi Level Marketing shares the proceeds to MULTI LEVELS (duh). Corporations don't!"
Technically there is a difference between Young Living and actual pyramid schemes (one that Young Living oilies don't seem to mention much). In a pyramid scheme, the new "distributor" gets a box of soap or knives or whatever (a lá Amway or Cutco), that they then have to sell. Young Living distributors don't have to sell the product, they just have to buy a certain amount of oil.
When a distributor gets a new recruit to sign up, Young Living gives the distributor a discount. After a certain amount of recruiting, distributors can supposedly start earning a commission. Here's a video I couldn't be bothered to sit through about Young Living's compensation plan.
Even if Young Living isn't technically an illegal pyramid scheme, there is plenty of reason not to participate in Multi-Level Marketing, according to the Federal Trade Commission. (Skip to the "5 Red Flags" section if you've ever considered signing up for Young Living, or anything like it.)
Does it sound like I'm saying essential oils are pure, organic bullshit? I'm not. If you believe something helps with your ADD, or difficulty sleeping, or PTSD, you'll probably feel beneficial effects. And if you like the way it smells, it's your nose. You can smell what you want.
One small study did indicate that essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender and cedar wood) help with hair loss related to alopecia. The fact remains that most of the ingredients in essential oils haven't been evaluated by the FDA, or any type of scientist.
The fact remains that most of the main ingredients in essential oils haven't been evaluated by the FDA, or any type of scientist.
And if you're citing old-timey wisdom as a reason to buy a lot of expensive oils ($95-ish for a starter kit), I suspect Young Living's motives aren't as pure as the delicious soil that surrounds their organic plants.